HALF-backs Liam Finn and Andy Kain return for Featherstone’s second pre-season match against Super League neighbours Wakefield Wildcats at Rapid Solicitors Stadium on Sunday (3pm).
Ben Kaye and Tommy Saxton are also set to make their first pre-season appearances as Rovers look to build on their 42-6 win over Hunslet Hawks on New Year’s Day.
Featherstone’s line-up will also include new signings Ben Hellewell (from Warrington), Lamont Bryan (London), Tom Hodson (Doncaster) and Andy Ellis (Wakefield) who all played against Hunslet.
Prop Matt James, signed on a two-year contract from Wakefield, will not face his old club on Sunday. James, who has undergone minor knee surgery, could make his Featherstone debut in the fixture at Castleford Tigers the following Sunday.
Rovers also have another pre-season match this weekend. The under 23s/reserves take on Doncaster first-team at Big Fellas Stadium tomorrow (Friday, 7.45pm).
Wakefield, who lost 42-20 to Leeds Rhinos in their opening pre-season fixture on Boxing Day, are set to field a strong team on Sunday on their return from a warm weather camp in Portugal this week.
Rovers coach Daryl Powell said: “Liam Finn, Andy Kain and Ben Kaye will all play at Wakefield. Tommy Saxton has a bit of a back problem at the moment but hopefully he should be available.
“We will field a squad of 19 or 20 players. I’ll pick a few players after Friday’s game against Doncaster and see who is going to slot in.
“Liam Finn was fit to play against Hunslet - it wasn’t an issue. I just wanted to try a few different things and I thought Kyle Briggs went well at seven.
“Against Wakefield, we’ll have a new half-back combination in there from last week. Kyle Briggs is likely to play at 13 with Jonny Hepworth on the bench so we’ll have plenty of options from a creative perspective.
“I understand Wakefield will field a strong team. They are on camp in Portugal this week so they’ll get the opportunity to spend a lot of time together which is great for them.
“I think we are in a good spot ourselves so it should be good challenge. From a preparation point of view, Wakefield have a bit of an advantage but we are just going to look after ourselves and make sure we are really focused and ready to play the game.
“It’s certainly a challenging pre-season but I think it’s ideal. It’s a great opportunity for our players to put themselves up against Super League opposition.
“You don’t get many opportunities to play against the first teams of Super League clubs. I think we’ll get a couple of chances now and I think it’s good for us. I’m looking forward to the challenge in front of us.”
Rovers are still without Sam Smeaton, Tim Spears and Mick Haley.
Smeaton and Spears are recovering from surgery and Haley is sidelined with a broken foot.
Powell said: “It will be into the season before Sam Smeaton is back and Spears potentially a week or two into the season.”
The Rovers boss is looking to build on his side’s performance in their first pre-season run out against Hunslet when they scored eight tries and conceded just one.
“I thought we showed real steel in defence and we were difficult to break down. Hunslet didn’t throw that much at us and we controlled field position quite a lot, particularly in the first-half,” he added.
“There were loads of good, positive elements to come out of that game and a few things we need to improve as well, which is always the case in pre-season matches.
“In attacking positions, our timing was a little bit off which is to be expected. It’s been difficult to spend much time on our structure but we’ve stepped that up now and we are working pretty hard on our fluency with the ball.
“We conceded a try against Hunslet that was a bit sloppy so you are wanting to improve every aspect of your performance as you go through pre-season and we certainly going to be challenged a fair bit more this weekend and the players are aware of that. The whole weekend will be a good test for us with our 23s playing Doncaster on Friday and then our first-team taking on Wakefield.”
Powell is looking forward to seeing the club’s promising young players in action against Doncaster tomorrow evening.
“All the players we’ve got available outside of the players that are taking the field against Wakefield will be playing against Doncaster,” he said.
“Obviously, Doncaster have only got a first-team so it will be our reserve side against their first-team so it will be another significant challenge and I’m looking forward to seeing how are young players handle it. We’ve a lot of good players at the club who have potential for the future.
“I thought people like Jack Ormondroyd and Liam Mackay really handled the game well against Hunslet, Kurtis Jackson went well at nine while he was on and Kyran Johnson did some good things.”
Powell will also have another look tomorrow evening at trialist Andy Finn who had a run out from the bench against Hunslet. Back-rower Finn played for Warrington Wolves under 20s last season.
“Andy Finn went okay against Hunslet. He had a period where he gave a penalty away and made a couple of errors but he got a good off-load away and he’s pretty strong and works hard,” he said.
“I think this week will be a good opportunity for us to have a look at him probably with more time on the field than he had against Hunslet.”
Admission tomorrow evening is £3 adults and £1 concessions and children. The same admission prices will apply when Featherstone host derby rivals Castleford Tigers in a pre-season under 19 game at Big Fellas Stadium on Saturday, January 19 (2.30pm).
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